The opioid crisis is at an all-time high. People suffering from chronic pain, especially, are at risk for addiction to drugs such as Vicodin, oxycodone, morphine, and Percocet, among others. But while these drugs may initially address acute pain, are they safe for long-term use in chronic pain patients?
How Opiates Affect the Brain
Everyone's brain contains opiate receptors. The reason is that your internal neurotransmitters act on these receptors and naturally produce effects that are nearly the same as opiate drugs. When you introduce an opiate drug into your brain, it binds to these receptors and acts like these naturally occurring pain-relieving chemicals. While these drugs can block pain, they can also produce unpleasant side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and confusion.
These drugs can also cause feelings of euphoria. And, while they are effective in treating pain, many patients quickly develop a tolerance, even when taking them exactly as prescribed, which leads to addiction. If the drugs are suddenly stopped, symptoms of withdrawal occur, including abdominal cramping, anxiety, vomiting, muscle aches, and irritability.
But there are other ways to control chronic pain. Talk to your doctor about opiate alternatives. Here are some of the things you can do to alleviate your pain, without risk of addiction.
Practiced for thousands of years in China, acupuncture is defined as "a body of procedures and techniques for stimulating specific points on the body." There have been many scientific studies showing that acupuncture can help ease chronic pain, as well as chronic headaches and migraine.
It would seem like the very last thing we want to do when we're in pain is to pay more attention to what hurts. But that's what's behind mindfulness, which is an effective tool for chronic pain and other issues. Instead of wishing the pain would go away, we focus on the pain with curiosity and without judgment. This leads to an acceptance of the pain and, in turn, helps the patient to deal with it. Discuss this with your doctor to see if mindfulness is an appropriate practice for your chronic pain.
Sounds like a drag, right? But changing your diet and adding more of the right nutrients can go a long way towards alleviating your chronic pain. An anti-inflammatory diet, especially, can help alleviate pain without the use of opiate or opioid medications. See a nutritionist to discuss an anti-inflammatory diet.
Along with other natural alternatives, such as yoga and ecotourism, you can manage your pain naturally. If you're concerned about managing your pain without opiates, talk to your doctor about opiate alternatives.